17 NOVEMBER 2001, Page 37

Powell replies

From Lord Powell of Bayswater Sir: Stephen Glover's article (Media studies. 10 November) makes unsubstantiated insinuations about me. May I put the record straight on some matters of fact?

1) Mr Glover speculates that I may myself have 'pushed the idea' that I should be sent as an emissary to President Assad. That is simply untrue. I was asked to go by the Prime Minister, without any prior discussion or warning.

2) Mr Glover appears to assume that my main purpose in meeting President Assad was to 'propose a visit by the British Prime Minister to Damascus'. No such proposal featured in my discussion with President Assad. My impression is that the idea of such a visit was conceived only at a later date.

3) Mr Glover insinuates rather mistily that I had a conflict of interest in meeting President Assad because of my connection with Mr Wafic Said. I am indeed a friend of Mr Said's, and am proud to be so: he is a remarkable man and an extraordinary benefactor of good causes in this country. But I conduct no business on his behalf in Syria or elsewhere in the Middle East. Nor do I have any connection with First Saudi Investment Company to which Mr Glover refers. My visit to Damascus was exclusively related to conveying the Prime Minister's views on the war against terrorism to President Assad.

4) Mr Glover describes me as a 'freelance operator' in foreign policy. The reality is that I was expertly briefed by the Foreign Office — indeed the very department of which I was once a member — before going to Damascus, and was most effectively supported by the British embassy while there.

There are numerous other inaccuracies with which I will not weary you. If Mr Glover's favoured technique of insinuation is to be compelling, it requires some grounding in fact. He fails this basic test lamentably.

Charles Powell

London W2